“I hate hogs,” Ricky Crook said to me across the front seat of his pickup.
If anybody hates hogs, it’s definitely Ricky.
“I killed 35 last week,” he said.
Thirty-five! Good grief, the man does have some kind of hog problems.
Ricky deer hunts several tracts of land in Sumter County. One tract he hunts is a 2,000-acre dairy farm outside of Americus.
“I’ve been hunting that place since I was 6,” said Ricky. “I know the family real well. We started getting hogs out there about eight years ago, and we’ve been killing them ever since.”
In the middle of this big dairy farm is a 200-acre field that gets planted in corn, peanuts and rye grass.
“These hogs are taking money out of their pockets,” said Ricky. “They plant the rye grass for the cows, and it has to be a level surface for them to cut the field. When hogs root a section of the field they’ll have to cut around the area, so they lose a big area.”
Being friends with the family and having the land to hunt, Ricky’s job — as friend and lessee — is to eradicate the hogs. All in all, he’s done a fantastic job. Ricky has killed about 1,300 hogs in seven years!
How is there a hog left in Sumter County, I wondered.
After a visit with him last month, he proved to me that he’s still having trouble with hogs destroying this field.
“They’re still here,” said Ricky. “Dad saw a group of 25 in the big field before you got here.”
Ricky said this farm holds hogs so well because it has the only big agricultural field for several square miles.
Plus, the field is surrounded by a thick, boggy swamp that holds breeding hogs all year.
“It’s a full-time job dealing with these hogs,” said Ricky. “It takes a lot of time, especially these hogs, because they get smart when you put any pressure on them.”
Ricky got a “feral hog control permit” from WRD. This permit, which is given to anyone with hog problems, allows Ricky to shoot hogs over bait, from a vehicle and with the use of a 12-volt light. The permit is valid from after deer season until March 10 and then again from May 16 – Aug. 31, 2006.
Under the permit, I was one of Ricky’s “authorized assistants.” Sounds pretty professional doesn’t it? It’s not — I was just a guy excited to be in a tower stand overlooking 50 pounds of broadcast corn hoping I’d get to whack a hog for my freezer. The stand sat on a food plot in the middle of swamp, a perfect place to see a hog, I thought. Ricky was 300 yards away in a similar setup.
Dark came and I still hadn’t seen or heard a hog. Ricky and I agreed to sit in the stand an hour after sunset, both of us equipped with lights to shine our corn piles and shoot a hog.
About the time I thought Ricky would be driving up to get me, he shot. Fifteen minutes later, with flashlights in hand, we were in hot pursuit of a dead hog.
“There’s blood right there,” Ricky announced.
There was an impressive splattering of blood right next to the corn.
“He was standing in it eating when I shot,” said Ricky.
We followed the bright-red blood down the edge of a food plot.
“This hog is dead,” I said.
We felt confident that we’d soon be headed to a local hog processor. As we neared an edge of privet we hit the brakes. Fifty yards inside the woods the hog starting thrashing.
“I know better than to go in there in the dark,” Ricky said.
What could I say? This man has dealt with 1,300 hogs. We elected to wait until the next morning. Before we left, Ricky scattered of bag of corn cobs on the ground.
“Corn on the cob lasts a lot longer than pouring bagged corn on the ground because the hogs have to work for it to get it off the cob,” said Ricky. “Also when you’re trying to shoot a hog, corn cobs will hold them in one place longer and makes it easier to get a shot.”
Folks who have hogs on their hunting leases must get the landowner to write a letter to their local WRD office stating that it’s OK for a permit to be issued to the individual.
“It’s a step so we know the landowner is in the loop,” said WRD region supervisor Steve Ruckel. “It used to be to get a permit they had to have damage on a commercial agricultural crop. Now if folks have damage on food plots or freshly planted pines trees, we can issue a permit.”
Shooting hogs over bait is only one of Ricky’s methods to kill hogs. His most successful way, at least in the beginning of his hog-eradication program, was to trap.
“We used a real big trap, and we’d catch 15 or 25 in it,” said Ricky. “The problem is that after we’d shoot all the hogs in the trap it would be months before we could catch hogs in that trap again.”
Now, Ricky has several smaller traps that he uses. Ricky’s buddy designed a trap, which has a dropgate in the middle of it, and a 150-gallon water tank on top.
“When we catch a hog we’ll push him to the back and drop the gate,” said Ricky. “We figured out that as long as we had hogs in the trap, we’d catch seven or eight in a week. We kept them fed and watered.”
Ricky said he only uses live hogs to lure in other hogs when the weather is cool.
A downside to trapping is that catching the first one is now pretty tough. Ricky’s hogs get “trap shy.”
“They figure it out pretty quick,” said Ricky. “Now we shoot most of them over bait and riding around at night with a light.”
Ricky has several friends who have hog dogs, which Ricky says accounts for a few dead hogs throughout the year. Several days after I hunted with Ricky, a group of guys came in and killed a good-sized boar.
“Dogs aren’t a cure,” said Ricky. “Dogs help push the hogs off your property for two and three weeks.”
He did say that when the dairy is planted in corn that hog dogs get out in the corn rows and catch hogs.
After supper I met Ricky back at the dairy to shine the field with a light.
“If we catch a group of hogs in the field, we should be able to shoot every one of them,” said Ricky.
Before the first shot Ricky likes to get his vehicle between the woods and the hogs, so when he fires, the hogs run toward the middle of the giant, 200-acre field. This will give him time to safely drive to the opposite side of the hogs and shoot again. He repeats the process until all the hogs are dead or they make it back to the woods. It sounded like a great way to kill a half-dozen hogs quickly, but we didn’t see the pigs.
The next morning I met Ricky an hour before daylight to see if we could catch the hogs in the field before daylight. Instead, we saw where the hogs made a visit sometime between midnight and 5 a.m.
After an unsuccessful morning over bait, it was time to find our hog from the night before. We picked the blood trail back up and followed it 30 yards before it ran out. Left scratching our heads, we made several wide circles through the area but no dead hog.
Ricky called me a week later and said they’d found the hog several hundred yards from where he’d shot.
It’s amazing that Ricky’s hog problems continue.
“We got hit again last night, and they’re not going in the traps,” he said on Feb. 23.
Ricky will tell you he’s still learning how to deal with his overwhelming hog problem. But his resume sure is impressive. Try a combination of baiting, trapping or hog dogs to kill hogs this summer.